a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
1. of or concerning the Nazis or Nazism.
Why am I bringing this up?
I read a blog post recently where apparently, speculative fiction author N.K. Jenisin called science fiction author Jon Del Arroz a Nazi on twitter. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a conservative being equated to a Nazi, but does this really mean Mr. Del Arroz belongs to the Nazi Party?
Not that I can tell. According to blog posts such as this one and his authoring articles like this one at the online magazine The Federalist, he is certainly a political conservative, but again, does that make him (or any other conservative) an actual Nazi?
No, not according to the dictionary definition of the term. But as I’ve already mentioned, “Nazi” can be used in a wider social scope. To find out more, I went to Urban Dictionary. They have a lot of definitions of “Nazi,” many of which correspond to the traditional dictionary’s definition.
However, a few do not:
Someone who has an opinion that is different than my own.
Here’s another that’s quite similar:
1. (noun) A person who believe [sic] Hitler was a good person and did nothing wrong.
2. (noun) Someone that voiced an opinion someone else didn’t like.
“That guy’s a nazi, he wants to kill jewish people.”
“That guy’s a nazi, he thinks differently than I do.”
“That guy’s a nazi, he thinks differently than I do” seems to be the closest example I could find of why anyone would call Mr. Del Arroz a Nazi.
But we all think differently than someone else. The world isn’t made up of a homogeneous population of identically thinking and feeling people.
So by that definition, we’re all “Nazis” in someone’s eyes.
No, that can’t be right.
So let’s look at some details. Can we discover why Ms. Jemisin accused Mr. Del Arroz of being a Nazi?
To start with, we’ll have to look at Del Arroz’s article on The Federalist, After I Said Transgenderism Is A Mental Illness, Twitter Blocked My Account. That pretty much lays out the situation relative to Del Arroz and twitter, but where does Ms. Jemisin come in?
I’m including a small screen capture taken from Del Arroz’s blog of a “tweet” made by Jemisin yesterday (June 19th) responding to @PrinceJvstin (I can barely read the name on the image, so I may have gotten it wrong) stating:
Nazis use Comic Sans. Why am I not surprised.
That’s not particularly illuminating, so I went to Jemisin’s twitter account and looked for that tweet, hoping there was a “conversation” associated with it. I couldn’t find anything.
Maybe she deleted it, or maybe the way twitter organizes information isn’t entirely linear. I tried searching the webpage for “@PrinceJvstin,” “Jon Del Arroz,” “jondelarroz,” and “arroz,” but came up with nothing.
But I did get the “flavor” of Jemisin’s opinions based on a quick review of her recent tweets, so I don’t think her accusing someone of being a Nazi for expressing the opinion of transsexual people being mentally ill is off the table.
Okay, let’s say Del Arroz expressed a viewpoint that is exceptionally unpopular to social and political liberals. Certainly, he seems to be a lightning rod for the criticism of leftist pundits, such as this example at P.Z. Myers’s blog.
Just for giggles, I scanned the comments sections of both The Federalist article and Mr. Myers’s blog post, and although the specific content is different, the highly emotional expressions of the ire and angst filled respondents is identical. Each side appears to feel horribly insulted and put out by the other.
This seems to be more a trait of human beings on social media rather than one indicating conservatism or liberalism.
So, is Mr. Del Arroz (or by inference any social or political conservative) a Nazi? No, of course not. He may not be your cup of tea, and his opinions may certainly rub you the wrong way, that does not mean he is or ever has been a member of the Nazi Party.
Nearly three weeks ago, I posted a wee essay called Be Careful What You Tweet commenting on Roseanne Barr’s ill-advised and seemingly racist comment. It cost Ms. Barr her job and probably her career.
Mr. Del Arroz’s twitter account was suspended after his tweet about transsexuals, and whether we agree with that action or not, twitter is within its rights to do so according to their own “rules against hateful conduct” which include (quoting The Federalist article) promoting “violence against, threaten, or harass other people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Wait! What did I just say?
Did Mr. Del Arroz “promote violence” against transsexual people by expressing his opinion relative to mental illness?
behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.
synonyms: brutality, brute force, ferocity, savagery, cruelty, sadism, barbarity, brutishness
- strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force.
“the violence of her own feelings”
synonyms: intensity, severity, strength, force, vehemence, power, potency, fervency, ferocity, fury, fire
“the violence of his passion”
the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.
That’s only a partial list, but on the surface, I can’t see that Del Arroz advocated the use of force against transsexual people or anyone else.
However, I am aware, as with the term “Nazi,” the word “violence” can be used in a wider social context to mean any speech with which I disagree or am upset by.
It’s really, really complicated and worthy of its own commentary (which I don’t have time for), but briefly, here’s an opinion piece from The New York Times alongside Why it is a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words are Violence published at The Atlantic.
Quoting the latter:
Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes violence. We’re not talking about verbal threats of violence, which are used to coerce and intimidate, and which are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment. We’re talking about speech that is deemed by members of an identity group to be critical of the group, or speech that is otherwise upsetting to members of the group. This is the kind of speech that many students today refer to as a form of violence.
So based on this definition, twitter could very well deem Mr. Del Arroz’s tweet as “promoting violence.” It doesn’t fit my definition, but quoting from the NY Times commentary:
Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.
Your body’s immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation when you’re physically injured. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines themselves can cause physical illness. What are those conditions? One of them is chronic stress.
Your body also contains little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They’re called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress.
If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence.
But again, it’s not that simple. According to the same NY Times article:
The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn’t be acceptable on campus and in civil society. In short, the answer depends on whether the speech is abusive or merely offensive.
Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. Your nervous system evolved to withstand periodic bouts of stress, such as fleeing from a tiger, taking a punch or encountering an odious idea in a university lecture.
Can a single tweet be abusive? I suppose, but it would have to go pretty far. It also depends on how any given individual defines “offensive” vs. “abusive.”
If I were a transsexual (and I’m not), and I read a tweet where someone said I was mentally ill based on being transsexual, I might experience being “abused” if it added to many other comments and perceptions of others I had already experienced which contributed to my overall suffering.
Where are we so far?
Is Jon Del Arroz a Nazi? No, not according to the dictionary definition of the term. In my opinion, applying that term in a much wider context is potentially dangerous, because of the risk of associating anyone you don’t like or with whom you disagree with the crimes of the Nazi Party, which include the Holocaust (and my wife and children are Jewish, so I’m not a big fan of the Holocaust, Nazis, or antisemitism).
Did Mr. Del Arroz promote violence? Again, according to the dictionary definition, no he did not. He expressed what in some contexts is considered a highly offensive opinion, but he did not specifically incite violence or the use of force against transsexuals or any other group.
Using twitter is not a human or legal right, so if twitter as an organization wants to suspend Del Arroz’s account, they are free to do so, regardless of how you or I may feel about it. This probably reveals twitter’s political and social biases, but that’s hardly a surprise.
As an aside, I recently found out that twitter CEO Jack Dorsey ran afoul of the twitterati because he publicly promoted the fast food restaurant Chick-Fil-A. This was a problem because it has come to light that the company’s COO expressed an opinion opposing same-sex marriage. Also, the company has donated (though the WinShape Foundation) millions of dollars to political organizations seen by LGBT activists as hostile to LGBT rights.
When confronted, Mr. Dorsey said something like he “forgot” about the company’s background and apologized.
No one is immune, I guess, but Dorsey apologized and after all, as twitter’s CEO, he more than likely had a hand in defining its policy of use. No one called him a Nazi, nor suggested that he had promoted violence against anyone.
People have been disagreeing with other ever since there were enough of us to have a conversation. We’ll continue disagreeing with each other until the Second Coming (First, if you’re a religious Jew) or the heat death of universe, whichever comes first.
Disagreeing does not mean the person we oppose is either a Nazi or has promoted violence. It just sometimes makes us feel better about ourselves if we pretend that’s who they are and what they’ve done.
Now I suppose that makes me a Nazi who is promoting violence. Let the comments begin.